By Vince Angelo C. Ferreras
PRESIDENTIAL PEACE Adviser Jesus G. Dureza said the government will meet with National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) leaders Fidel Agcaoili and Luis Jalandoni in Manila next week to discuss the resumption of peace talks despite the continuous tirade and misunderstanding on both sides.
“The planned meeting with National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) leaders Fidel Agcaoili and Luis Jalandoni may take place next week in Manila,” said Mr. Dureza in a message to reporters on Sunday, Nov. 18.
He added, “President Duterte has tasked Secretary Salvador Panelo and me to meet with them in an informal chat.”
In a text message to BusinessWorld, Mr. Dureza confirmed that he and Mr. Panelo will meet with the two NDFP leaders instead of President Rodrigo R. Duterte.
In a statement on Nov. 10, Mr. Agcaoili said he and NDFP consultant Coni Ledesma will fly back to the Philippines in relation to their work in the Joint Monitoring Committee. They will be accompanied by Mr. Jalandoni.
For his part, Defense Secretary Delfin N. Lorenzana said in a statement on Sunday, “The NDF was the one guilty of bad faith since the beginning, for the simple reason that for them, the peace talks is just their tool to pursue their armed rebellion.”
Sought for comment, lawyer and Ateneo Policy Center research fellow Michael Henry Ll. Yusingco said of the planned meeting between the government and the NDFP, “But on the other hand, we have to ask, is this still relevant? Is this discussion between the government and NDF relevant to our current problems? Because if you really think about it, what they are going to meet about is only relevant to them….”
He added, “This might not have relevance at all to the overall scheme of things in the Philippines. Kumbaga itong meeting na ito (It’s as if this meeting), to put it bluntly, will be about nostalgic self-importance between the Communist Party and the administration. I don’t think they will produce any concrete outcomes that are impactful to the country.”
On another matter, NDFP condemned the “lies” of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) regarding its recent update on Mindanao to justify the extension of martial law.
“The National Democratic Front of the Philippines-North Eastern Mindanao Region (NDFP-NEMR) condemns in strongest terms the fantastic lies being spread by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to justify its proposal to extend martial law in the island,” NDFP said in a statement on Saturday, Nov. 17.
AFP Chief-of-Staff Carlito G. Galvez said in a press conference on Nov. 16 that most of the stakeholders and local government units in Mindanao are in favor of extending martial law anew.
“Sa ngayon, nakikita natin [na] majority ng units natin and also majority of our stakeholders are favoring for the extension. Because they wanted to maintain the situation,” he said.
The AFP chief also cited the large number of rebels who surrendered to the government. “In Eastern Mindanao alone, 11,333 CPP-NPA members and supporters have been given an opportunity to experience a more peaceful and productive way of life. They are joined by over 300 members of local terrorist groups, 572 of which are ASG, who chose to abandon their illegal activities in exchange for reformation and reintegration,” Mr. Galvez said on Friday.
NDFP for its part said, “These claims are nothing but fabrications by the AFP. The military and the Duterte government are lying through their teeth in a desperate attempt to absolve state forces of atrocities brought about by martial law in Mindanao.”
By Vince Angelo C. Ferreras